By GERRY FOLEY
As the Zionist regime continues to move toward an all-out war to crush the Palestinian people, two political initiatives have been launched that seem to offer the beginnings of hope for stopping the descent into genocide.
On the Israeli side, more than a hundred reserve army officers have declared publicly their opposition to war against the Palestinians. The Feb. 1 BBC News Online reported:
“The reservists have said they are not willing to fight for the purpose of ‘dominating, expelling, starving, and humiliating an entire people.” The report continued: “A poll conducted for Israel radio said 31 percent of Israelis supported the protesting officers.”
The army reserve is more representative of Israeli public opinion than the serving army because nearly all Israelis are obliged to serve in it until well into middle age.
On the Palestinian side, in the Feb. 4 issue of The Nation, Edward Said, the most prominent Palestinian intellectual in exile, announced the emergence of a new secular nationalist current that rejects both the Arafat leadership’s continual yielding to Israeli and U.S.pressure and the indiscriminate suicide attacks on crowds of Israelis by Islamist zealots and some frustrated elements associated with popular militias.
Said noted: “Recent polls show that between them, Arafat and his Islamist opponents … get somewhere between 40 and 45 percent popular approval. This means that a silent majority of Palestinians is neither for the Authority’s misplaced trust in Oslo [the so-called peace process] nor for Islamist violence.”
One of the activities of the new current, Said explained, was the organization of an international solidarity movement to organize nonviolent protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and thereby to focus the attention of international public opinion on the occupation and its demoralizing effects both on the Israeli and Palestinian societies. Its statement of purpose stresses the need for unifying the Palestinian people through democratic decision making.
This group of intellectuals is far from having the sort of program needed to build an international mass movement to free the Arab and Israeli masses from the oppression of their reactionary governments. But the emergence of this current does point toward developing political action, which is where the solution is to be found.
In particular, Palestinian leaders need to find an effective political counter to the imperialists’ so-called war on terror, which is preparing the way for more brutal attacks against them, backed by the financial and military power of the United States.
From the start, the U.S. “war on terrorism” pointed toward increased miltary and political support for Zionist repression, since Washington included Palestinian organizations fighting Israeli occupation on its list of terrorist groups.
In the past week, Washington has openly endorsed the Israeli attacks on Yasar Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, using the pretext that the Palestinian leader or his lieutenants tried to bring in a clandestine shipment of arms from Iran.
Arafat denies that his government had any knowledge of the shipment. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney responded on a TV news program by declaring “We don’t believe him” (BBC Online News, Jan. 28).
Cheney, speaking in Bush’s name, declared that the U.S. was moving toward rejecting the Arafat leadership as an interlocutor with the Palestinians. That in effect means confrontation with the Palestinians, since there is no other Palestinian leader who could offer the Zionists and their imperialist sponsors what they are demanding.
Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon has now even gone to the point of publicly regretting that the Zionist military did not kill Arafat in 1982 during the siege of Beirut. He claims that Israeli commanders had orders not to “liquidate” the Palestinian leader. If that is true, it is probably because the Israeli government and its backers knew that if they eliminated Arafat, there would be no one that they could negotiate with. And after all, he gave them the Oslo agreements.
In the furor created by Sharon’s bloodthirsty statement, Israeli officials were quick to say that the Zionist government had no intention of assassinating Arafat, since that would have been a reasonable interpretation of Sharon’s remark. If the Zionists missed their chance to kill Arafat in 1982, why not rectify the mistake now? In fact, there has been open discussion in the right-wing Israeli press of the advantages of murdering Arafat, with a substantial minority favoring it.
The aggressive Zionists charge Arafat with fighting Israel. Thus, they refuse to recognize that the very fact that Arafat has been seen as a leader of Palestinian resistance was what made it possible for him to give them the concessions they needed.
In a similar case in Ireland in the early 1920s, when the Irish bourgeoisie decided to abandon the goal of real independence for the country in return for an autonomous state apparatus that they could control, they needed the support of the most prestigious leader of the war of independence, Michael Collins, to get mass support for their deal. Any astute imperialist maneuverer would know this. So, if the Zionists reject Arafat because he has been a leader of Palestinian resistance, they are rejecting any compromise whatever.
The Palestinian forces are now very divided, as is the regime in Iran. It will be difficult to find out who was involved in the arms shipment captured by the Israelis. But with the Israel army staging strikes constantly against the Palestinian Authority and apparently moving toward an all-out war against the Palestinian people, it would be understandable if Arafat or others in the PA tried to get some means for defending themselves.
Moreover, there are many reports that the Zionist rulers consider Iran their most dangerous enemy. It is one of the major states in the Middle East and its rulers have based their legitimacy on claims to represent the anti-imperialist feelings of the masses in all the Muslim-majority countries, not just their own. They rose to power on the back of one of three great anti-imperialist uprisings in the Middle East (the others being the Turkish national revolution in the 1920s and the Iraqi revolution of 1957).
In an article in the Feb. 2 issue of the London Guardian, David Hirst pointed out that the Israeli rulers had been pressing Bush to make Iran a target of his “war against terrorism.” The Israelis, reportedly, fear that Iran is close to gaining a nuclear capability that could be used against them.
On the other hand, the Tehran daily Jumhouri Eslami, which represents the more anti-imperialist wing of the Iranian government, published an analysis pointing out that Iran is the most likely target of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, since the Zionists’ potentially hostile Arab neighbors are too close for Israel itself not to suffer from fallout.
It is clear that the Zionist “low-intensity” but growing war against the Palestinians-and by extension against the entire anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East-is pointing to ever greater dangers for the peoples of the region and beyond. These threats can only be removed by a political mobilization of the Arab masses that can win support or at least acceptance by working people in Israel as well.
That is the program once held by the Palestinian Liberation Organization-the call for a democratic secular Palestine, which could offer a basis for coexistence of everyone living in the country. The new political initiatives by Israeli reserve officers and some independent Palestinian leaders are hopeful inasmuch as they may begin to lead in that direction.